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Thursday, May 21, 2009
Mark Driscoll wrote a fantastic article on Fox News regarding the recent Newsweek cover piece which discussed the falling rates of professing Christians in America. He nails it.
Newsweek missed the subtle — but vital — difference between Christian America and Christendom America.

Christian America is comprised of those people who have had a truly transforming experience with Jesus Christ and are living new lives as practicing Christians. Experts such as sociologist Bradford Wilcox at the University of Virginia have well documented the fact that those who practice Christian faith by reading their Bibles regularly, attending church, praying, and so forth are far less likely to engage in acts such as adultery, divorce, substance abuse, and the like.

Christendom America is comprised of those people who have not had a truly transforming experience with Jesus Christ and are living lives virtually indistinguishable from those who are non-Christians. The confusion is that it was common in Christendom for people who did not practice Christianity to profess Christianity. This was often done for social reasons, such as living in a culture that expected church affiliation, being born into a religious tradition and assuming it was simply part of one’s identity (like a cultural or racial connection), or personally, socially, and vocationally benefitting from being connected, even loosely, to a church or denomination.
Subsequently, the Newsweek report simply confirms the fact that, just as Christendom has died in Europe and the major American cities, it is now dying in the suburban and rural areas of America as well. With the social benefits of professing to be a Christian no longer in place and the social stigma of not professing to be a Christian now lifted, those who were part of Christendom America are simply no longer pretending to be part of Christian America. Since those who professed faith but did not practice faith were confusing to account for, this is actually a good thing. Now, it is more likely that if someone is a Christian or non-Christian, he or she will state so plainly.

Therefore, the number of Christians has likely not diminished as much as has been reported, but rather we are seeing an increasingly accurate accounting of actual Christian America. The ARIS study confirmed this by saying that the number of people who claimed to be Christians decreased, while the number of people who claimed to be evangelical increased. This fact is not discouraging, but rather clarifying.
There is one thing that is concerning, namely the loss of the residue of some aspects of Protestant morality. For example, as authority is less and less respected, and social order becomes more difficult to maintain, and sexual sin increases the number of addicts and abuse victims (as we are dealing with by the thousands in our church), the result will be a culture that is less beneficial for Christians and non-Christians alike. This is because, although being good does not save you, insofar as the culture is concerned, it is still good. Proceeding forward, the distinctions in lifestyle between Christian America and non-Christian America will become increasingly stark and will require great service by the church in the areas of mercy and justice to help people damaged by a Christless culture.


Chris A said...

I ready the whole article. I think it was pretty good. I like his optimistic outlook on things, and I think he is right about the article in question being more of a clarification than anything.

I too distinguish Christianity from Christendom, although I don't usually use those terms in the same way; maybe I'll start.

Some of the civil but nevertheless strong disagreements I have had with Chris at ZFT are largely explainable in light of this distinction of true Christianity.

For instance, I commented that I did not believe our president is a Christian; that was on the basis of comments he had personally made, not even citing his own abhorrent ideas as a abortionist/eugenicist and all that. Chris basically argued that Obama is a Christian because he had attended Rev. Wright's church. I'm not kidding. He and I are often on two completely different wavelengths.

Darius said...

Yeah, Chris is an interesting fellow. For someone so smart and learned, some of his views are illogical and anti-Biblical, to say the least. Needless to say, some of our debates haven't been particularly cordial, which is probably mostly my fault. I don't react well to people who say good is evil and evil is good... particularly when they claim to be Christians.

I am amazed that anyone would honestly believe that Obama is a Christian just because he says he is. I could say I'm a rabbit, but if I look like a human, talk like a human, and do other human things, I'm probably a human. Obama says he's a Christian, but acts like he's not and has repeatedly said things to indicate that he has little idea of what being a Christian actually means.

Chris A said...

That rabbit analogy has got to qualify as one of the best of all time! lol!

Yeah, I've only been able to debate in a civil manner for the past year or so, so I totally feel ya.

Some of the debates you and I used to have would make me so angry. You don't even know. Then I realized that it would kind of stupid to get so worked up. But I still know what you mean.

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
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Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
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